Agility, authenticity and collaboration were some of the ideas expressed at a panel discussion on the Future of Media: Predicting the Unpredictable hosted by Arena Holdings.
Looking at our Covid-19 reality, Lorraine London Specialist Lead SSA Google said popular online searches had been ‘near me’ and ‘best promo code’ showing a desire to support local business and buy at the best available price. “With less cash flow, consumers are looking for cost efficiency,” London said. Consumers were concentrating on delivery options with more demand for same day.
London also said there had been an increase in searches for nature sounds indicating a desire for people to bring the outside inside. “There’s a yearning for connection, people. How do I take what I know and make it work on line? What do people need, what are they looking for – brands must make these connections.”
“We need to do social listening, to tap in, to keep our finger on the pulse, if not, it’s hard to keep up to date,” said Natalie Katz, senior strategic planner VML&R. She said analytic tools were useful, but that it was essential to use the observations and insights to integrate into actions, to adapt and be agile. Changes were happenging faster she said. “Scrum with your team and plan.”
“You cannot be married to your plan – agility means the opportunity to try different things. Progress is more importan than perfection.” This is the view of Justine Cullinan, general manger brand and strategy, Nando’s.
From offline to online
London said we had to use existing formats and take what we knew off line to make it work online. For example conferences and concerts which we can now livestream. “With the digital landscape we can do things we never thought possible – we won’t just revert to normal.” She said there were beautiful things to explore, and creative ways in which the formats help. “I’ve seen communication in more meaningful ways.”
Responding to the question of influencer marketing, Katz said it was part of business communication.” It’s been good at identifying causes further down the funnel.” For topics that are important to pockets of people influencers align and relate to consumers more meaningfully and can be authentic, she said, “Influencers are more resonant with the consumer.”
It’s all about meaning
London agreed. “Communication must be meaningful and there is a new desire for authenticity as we pivot. How does a brand respond in a meaningful way? It’s meaningful for a brand to leverage authenticity versus what’s popular.”
“We need to build the empathetic muscle, not technical expertise,” said Cullinan
Speaking to the bigger brand purpose, Katz said VML& R was future focused, “in touch with culture and within culture. We need to remember that we are speaking to humans first, not their wallets. Let’s show how we can help.”
Sharing is caring
On the question of collaboration, Eben Gouws, head of advertising, sales and trade marketing, Arena Holdings, said no organisation had all the expertise. “We look at what skills live where.” He said he’d observed collaboration in unrelated companies. “Look within and look externally, lean on your partners.
“We at Arena do content, layout, print, distribution and delivery to your house. We’ve always been good at collaboration – these channels are not seen as service providers but as people who play in this together. Collaboration is vital, put your ego in your pocket.”
Cullinan said ego should go on the back burner and that it negatively impacted the triple bottom line. “Listening has no ego, we must be custodians of the consumer.”
Gouws said he had banned the phrase ‘new normal’. “There will always be a desire to go back, but there has been a dramatic change.” He said it was necessary to facilitate work at home. “At the same time we need to get products in front of people. We are going to make certain mistakes. Fail fast and get back on track.”
He said the consumer was multi-faceted and there were plenty of opportunities to interact. “We need to understand content and serve it in different ways. There’s a need for education, there’s a need for entertainment. Look at the opportunities that speak to where we are now,” he said.
Cullinan said, last year was a crisis. “This year is a depression. We need to use this time to understand consumer needs. We need courage to do that.”